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This review is taken from PN Review 14, Volume 6 Number 6, July - August 1980.

TRANSLATION AND DISCOVERY János Pilinszky, Crater, translated by Peter Jay (Anvil) £1.95
Yehuda Amichai, Amen (Oxford) £2.75
Erich Fried, 100 Poems Without A Country (John Calder) £4.95

Reviewing Montale's New Poems in PNR 3, Michael Vince cited the exemplary Sherrard and Keeley edition of Seferis and urged more publishers to produce dual-text volumes of foreign poetry. May one repeat that general plea? It's most unlikely that twenty years ago three such books as these would have been offered to English readers. Yet, despite a welcome breaching of barriers, despite the continuing debates about "imitation" and the problems of translation, the number of bilingual editions that come immediately to mind is small: Seferis, Cavafy, the Penguin national anthologies (some out of print now) with their prose paraphrases, the recent Penguin selections of Neruda and Vallejo, the Spender/Leishman version of Duino Elegies. That list isn't exhaustive, and one could sketch a parallel list of critical works (including Hamburger's excellent The Truth of Poetry, the volume on Pasternak edited by Davie and Livingstone, books by J. M. Cohen and Bowra)-but generally we have not Montale, but Montale mediated through Singh; not Brodsky, but Brodsky percolated through Kline. The value of having the original text immediately accessible applies not only in such an extreme case as the formidable neologisms and syntax of Celan, but in almost every case, no matter how seemingly lucid the expression. Doubtless, publishers' costs are a decisive consideration; a dual text doubles a book's length, or halves the number of poems included. Questions of copyright may also arise. But how seriously can we pretend to have "read" foreign poetry if we have no experience (however faltering) ...


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